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Digital Textbooks Measures Move Forward at Capitol

Aired 4/11/12 on KPBS News.

A pair of measures at the State Capitol would require textbook publishers to make free digital textbooks available to California college students taking the most popular courses.

A pair of measures at the State Capitol would require textbook publishers to make free digital textbooks available to California college students taking the most popular courses.

They're authored by Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, and both passed their first committee votes Wednesday by wide margins.

"It is one of the leading strategies that we have this year to reduce the cost of a higher education for a lot of students and their families who are feeling the pinch," said Steinberg.

The legislation would create a competitive bidding process among publishers, faculty members and others - and set up a state-run open source digital library to house the E-books.

The textbook industry opposes the bills. It's concerned about the government funding digital textbooks - and potentially dictating to faculty that they must use those materials.

Higher education tuition in California has jumped significantly in recent years due to state budget cuts.

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Avatar for user 'Zhuubaajie'

Zhuubaajie | April 13, 2012 at 2:06 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

With California school districts close to bankrupt, mayhap the adoption of a noncommercial model for textbooks (like Beyond Textbooks, now makes sense.

At today's prices, with SiP technology, an Android (or Linux) based Pad can cost as little as $60 to make (for a 7" screen). Even for a 10" screen computer (that's what they are), the cost to manufacture is less than $100. That is not vaporware, but deliverable today, complete with camera, WiFi, Bluetooth, USB, MicroSD, and HDMI output.

The $100 computer is already here - you just have not heard.

Give each kid (K to 12) one of these electronic pads (less than the cost of just ONE printed textbook today). Kids no longer have to lug around 70 lb. school bags. Teachers can do really wonderful class activities - interactive, with full media. Imagine a microscope with a 10" screen as eyepiece, and with the view shared by all the PADS in the classroom.

Do more with less money. That always helps in a down economy.

Even if you do not wish to take the radical route and kick out all the textbook publishers, you can still save money by demanding that the commercially published texts be delivered electronically only. As the "cost" of publishing and distributing such books would be much less for the publishers, and the savings should be passed along to the schools.

With existing technology, you can easily store the several "textbooks" on the PAD (for the particular child) for the duration of the school year, so the child can "bring the books home." Also, a native electronic system would allow tests and assessments to be done and scored electronically (even the "written" portions can be entered and stored). Attendance taking would be trivial. Self scoring tests with instant feedback can easily be implemented. Cutting down on teachers' chores allows them to do more teaching.

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Avatar for user 'skippyjr'

skippyjr | April 16, 2012 at 10:21 a.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

The reality is the whole second hand text book scam will end soon enough. Let's be honest students get enough debt and digital books will save them some money. I just don't see the paper textbooks lasting for much longer. I guess long live Kindle. Digital makes a lot more sense. Packing around text books? How old school!

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | April 16, 2012 at 1:40 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

Why not just cheaply print and distribute (perhaps at a very low fee) the free texts already available online?

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